By Mary Beth Sallee
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
Through the years, armadillos have been known by many names: Hoover hogs, poor man’s pork, possum on a half shell, dillers, rhino pigs, and even the somewhat brutal nickname of Texas speed bumps.
Although armadillos are mostly associated with the deeper south, these mammals are becoming more common across the Bluegrass State.
“We’ve had several reports of armadillos throughout Kentucky,” said Zach Couch, the Nongame Program Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). “The sightings were pretty rare prior to the late 1990’s and have become more common in the past twenty years. Most of the reports we have are from western Kentucky around Land Between the Lakes and Fort Campbell, although we’ve had reports from as far east and north as Pike County and Rowan County.”
According to Couch, it can be presumed that the armadillos in Kentucky have naturally migrated north from states that have had stable to increasing populations. Range expansions northward have also been observed with other species in Kentucky over the last few decades, including the evening bat and Seminole bat. This trend is also being seen with fire ant colonies that have started to be observed in Kentucky.
However, given their natural migration into Kentucky, Couch says KDFWR considers armadillos native to Kentucky. Therefore, any issues that a home or landowner may have with an armadillo should be treated in the same way as they would an opposum or raccoon.
“If the animal isn’t doing any damage, it’s fine to observe it and leave it be,” Couch explained. “If it’s causing damage, Kentuckians have the right by state law to catch and euthanize the animal, which should be reported to their local conservation officer within 24 hours.”
An armadillo, whether it be alive or deceased, should not be handled with bare hands. Some armadillos are naturally infected with the bacteria that can cause Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Therefore, it may be possible that armadillos can spread that bacteria to people.
“Armadillos can carry leprosy, which is why we don’t recommend handling or eating them,” Couch added. “That being said, the potential for infection is quite low. Euthanized animals should be disposed of while wearing gloves.”
Currently, KDFWR does not have any plans for tracking armadillos beyond collecting observations provided by the public, which they keep in their database. Relocation of animals would likely not be considered as it carries the potential for disease transmission.